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Beginners Guide

How to Cast On Stitches

The first thing you need to do when you start knitting is to cast on the stitches. That is the first step in any knit work. The number of stitches you need to cast depends on the width of your work. The stitches have to be as wide as your work will be. However, don’t worry about that because all knitting patterns state how many stitches you need to begin with. So here is a simple way to cast on along with a video tutorial. For casting stitches you need only one needle, so for now put the other needle aside. Continue reading

Knitting Yarns

Wool yarnThere are a different types of yarns that can be used for knitting. Some of the most popular are:

Wool: This natural yarn comes mostly from sheep fleece but it could also be made of the downy coat of the angora rabbit or of camel hair. For rougher knit works sometimes you could also use wool made of goat hair. Sheep wool however is by far the most popular, because the hair is very elastic and durable. Woolen yarn also varies in thickness depending on how many individual threads it is made of.

Merino yarn: Merino yarn is made from the fleece of the merino sheep. Merino wool is very soft and efficient in regulating body temperature when worn against the skin. It absorbs some water, but also retains warmth when wet. The merino wool also provides warmth without overheating the body. As its fibers are finer, this is one of the softest types of wool.

Silk: Silk is a natural fiber obtained from the larvae cocoons of the silkworm. The thread obtained from one cocoon could be between 300-700 meters long. When boiled in hot water the silk thread softens and gets shinier, which makes silk wool excellent for finer knit works and clothing like dresses, shirts and tablecloths.

Cotton: Cotton fiber is obtained from the cotton plant. Cotton is soft, durable and easy to care for, which makes it very popular for producing textiles and knitting yarns. However, because cotton is prone to shrinking it is usually mixed with wool or synthetic fibers.

Linen: Linen fibers are obtained from the flax (linseed) plant. Linen yarn is very durable, even more durable than cotton yarn. As linen is difficult to dye, it usually comes in its natural color. Linen absorbs water and linen clothing provides coolness in warm weather.

Mohair yarn: Mohair yarn is very soft and silk-like and is obtained from the angora goat. Angora yarn is very durable and resilient, but is mostly known for its luster and sheen. Mohair has excellent insulating properties and is a great choice for knitting both winter and summer clothing.

Alpaca yarnAlpaca wool: Alpaca yarn is a natural fiber obtained from the fleece of the alpaca − a small domesticated llama like animal typical for the mountainous regions of South America. Alpacas are bred specifically for their wool. Alpaca fiber is soft, durable and silk-like and could be heavy or light depending on how it is spun. Compared to sheep wool it is warmer and doesn’t prickle.

Synthetic yarns: Synthetic yarns have become very widespread and synthetic fibers are often mixed with natural fibers to produce better quality yarns. Synthetic yarns have the advantage of being very durable and long-lasting. Among the drawbacks of artificial yarns is the fact that they don’t absorb water well and create static electricity.

Useful Tips

1. If you are a beginner, don’t start with a large knitting project like a sweater or a cardigan. Instead try to knit a headband or a simple scarf – something that you can finish quickly. Focus on making neat stitches and achieving a nice shape.

2. Needles come in various sizes and on the yarn label you can see what needle size you should use with this particular yarn. However, if you don’t have the yarn label or if you are not sure exactly what size to pick, a good rule of thumb is to use needles twice as thick as your yarn.

yarn and needles

3. After casting the stitches onto the needle, knit a row of purl stitches so that you can start your main work with a row of knit stitches. It is recommended to start this way, unless the knitting patterns requires you to start with a different stitch.

4. Beginners sometimes get confused how to continue if they have left their work in the middle of the row. When you are not sure what to do, take a look at the yarn coming from the ball. If the yarn is on the right-hand needle, then you have to knit the stitches from the left-hand needle.

5. When using the knit stitch oftentimes every other row turns out a little looser than the previous. If that is the case, you can use a smaller needle to knit the looser rows until you get used to working rows of equal tightness with two needles of the same size.

6. If you are a beginner it is recommended to knit a small sample of the actual knit work first in order to see if the pattern will turn out right and if the needles are the right size. Cast on 15-20 stitches and knit several rows to see how it looks. This way if you have to undo your work later, it won’t be so frustrating.

knitting work

7. When washing hand-knit clothes or accessories use detergents specifically meant for this type of items and check the yarn label to see whether it should be hand or machine washed. Always follow the instruction how to clean and care for your hand-knit items, otherwise you could ruin them for good.

8. Dry hand-knit items by spreading them on a dry towel over a flat surface. Arrange the item into its original shape by patting it; don’t tug and pull. Leave it to dry for 24 hours and if it is still wet, change the towel with a new dry one and leave it for another 24 hours.

9. Ironing items made entirely of wool should be done by placing a wet towel over them without touching the iron to the wool. Yarn labels usually provide information about the proper way of washing and ironing.

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